Huron was originally just called H Street, but it was changed to Huron in the 1850s, possibly in honor of a locally built steamship the U.S.S Huron, or it could simply honor the New York state Native American people.
Huron Street was once famed for the beauty of its gardens. At one time Huron Street had two gardens that were so beautiful that they helped make Greenpoint “The Garden Spot of Brooklyn.” Cousin’s garden near Franklin Street was a show place of Greenpoint. The Provost House near Manhattan Avenue also had a beautiful garden with grapevines and was known as The Brass Castle. Number 119 seems to be one of the oldest buildings in Greenpoint and might have shared the street with the gorgeous gardens. The gardens vanished long ago, but the foodie bookstore/cafe Archestratus (160 Huron St), near where the Provost House once stood, is a garden of culinary delights.
Industrialization changed Greenpoint into an overcrowded area of tenements without running water and the Huron Street baths were the final municipal bath in the city before their closure. Now, the Huron Street Baths are a metaphor for the rapid gentrification that is altering the face of Greenpoint and threatening its history. The Baths, built in 1903, are a relic from when Greenpoint was a humble working-class area with residents too poor to afford running water in their dwellings. Built in Roman Revival style, the bathhouse was designed to be an imposing copy of ancient Roman baths with classical pilasters, columns, arches and cornices.
Now, however, the baths are slated to become condominiums and it is not clear if the historic façade with its Doric columns will survive the transition to luxury housing. So, it’s high time we recall the history of the baths. The baths cost more than a hundred thousand dollars to build—huge money in 1903. The facility had steam heat and contained 25 shower stalls for women, 62 for the men and 2 tubs, one on each side of the building. The bath included a separate entrance for men and woman with a booth in the middle, which rented soap and towels. The bath finally closed in 1950s, bought by a Polish man who once bathed there as a kid. The building served for many years as a workshop of framing company Cowood Gilders.
Huron Street appeared in the New York Times because of criminals who lived on the street. In 1922, two Huron Street juvenile delinquents made the New York Times when they were arrested and prevented from traveling west to become train robbers. William Kindorf, aged fourteen and John Hollick, a year older were arrested in Pennsylvania Station. They had told other kids of their plans and showed them the pistols they would use in their future careers. The police, informed of their plans, arrested the two before they could depart for Pittsburg on their trip west.
In 1945, two teenagers were involved in one of the most horrific killings that ever happened in Greenpoint. Teenager Susan Scanga did not return home one night from her job in a local dress shop. Her body was found in a junkyard at the end of Huron Street. She had managed to scrawl her killer’s name on a wall before she died, giving the police an important clue. The police arrested two local boys who fled to Mobile, Alabama. Nicholas Fromkin of Huron Street was convicted in the murder of his girlfriend Scanga.
Huron Street was also the home of one of the most famous panics in the area when an explosion at the corner with Manhattan Avenue convinced locals that the Soviets had detonated a nuclear weapon. At just about noon on October 6, 1950, a massive ear splitting explosion at occurred, causing terror. The power of the blast was so great that it blew manhole covers fifty feet in the air like champagne corks and a ten-foot section of the street was vaporized. A reinforced concrete sewer was blown to pieces. Five hundred windows were shattered by the powerful explosion as blue flame belched from the manholes. Terror engulfed the area. One frightened woman shouted out, “The Russians dropped an atom bomb, we’ll all be burned alive!”
Hundreds of frightened families headed out to the streets certain that they would be roasted if they stayed indoors. Twenty police cars and three police emergency squads rushed to the scene. Amazingly, only three people were slightly injured. The city performed tests and learned that the blast was the result of an explosion of gas and oil fumes in the sewer. The explosion was soon forgotten. It was only twenty-eight years later Greenpointers would learn the true cause of the explosion: millions of tons of oil that had seeped into the local aquifer.
For years, the pier at the end of the street was important for brining vital raw materials into Greenpoint, but by the 1960s trucking and corruption on the docks had devastated the once thriving Greenpoint waterfront. The dock was abandoned by commerce, but became a lover’s lane, as couples would drive out onto the abandoned pier for trysts. Two couples had the surprise of their life in 1981 when a freighter came loose from her mooring and, crashed into the abandoned pier—knocking a parked car with four young people inside into the chilly waters of the East River. The young people were fished out, but probably the teenagers probably had some explaining to do.
Amazingly, a parcel of land right near where the old dock crashed into the river was sold for $60 million dollars. Times certainly have changed on Huron Street.